A/N: Bonus points to anyone who notices the A Very Potter Musical reference in this chapter! And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to stop reading RIGHT NOW and go to youtube to watch it! Seriously, it will be the best decision you've ever made.
Chapter 5: Of Magical Music and Goodnight Kisses
Ginny, Neville, Hermione and I talked as we ate, discussing the welcome cancellation of exams—Hermione wasn't quite so enthusiastic about this topic—and speculating on what the second task of the Triwizard Tournament might be. After a while, silence fell at our end of the table, and I cast about for something to say. My gaze fell on Hermione's smooth hair.
"How'd you get your hair like that?" I asked her.
"Sleakeasy's Hair Potion," she answered. "I almost didn't recognize myself when I was done putting it up, but I think I like it."
I nodded in agreement. "It's beautiful," I said without thinking. Did I just say that?! Immediately, my ears turned red, and I swallowed hard. "I mean—uh—" I saw Dumbledore rise from his seat, and could have kissed him when he called for quiet and Hermione turned towards the high table, saving me from having to complete my sentence.
I watched as the Champions took to the dance floor. Harry did a perfectly adequate job of directing Parvati across the floor, and though I knew it was horrible to admit, I was a little disappointed. However, my thoughts soon turned to more pressing matters—namely, WHAT THE HECK WAS WRONG WITH ME!! I mean, this is Hermione we're talking about. As in, my best friend. So why am I suddenly stumbling over my words, telling her she's beautiful, and getting all giddy when she smiles at me?! It's like I'm in—in . . .OH MY GOD, I'M IN LOVE WITH HERMIONE! I quickly looked around, afraid I'd thought that last bit so loud that someone had heard it. Then I realized how absurd that was, and snorted at my own ridiculousness.
Hermione looked back at me. "What's so funny?"
Obviously, I could not tell her what I'd just been thinking, so I quickly scanned the room for something amusing to comment on. My eyes were drawn to Fred and Angelina, who were dancing so boisterously that those around them were backing away swiftly. I actually did laugh when I saw this, and pointed them out to Hermione. "I should've known Fred would dance like that."
Hermione laughed too. "Oh dear, they're going to hurt someone!"
We watched them for a bit before Hermione turned and gave me with a calculating look.
"What?" I asked apprehensively.
She smiled. "Want to dance?"
"I thought you said you wanted to skip that part."
"I said I wouldn't mind skipping most of it. But it is a ball, after all." I smiled a little at the rhyme. "So, do you?" she pressed.
No, absolutely not, no way! But . . . "Sure," I heard myself say, to my horror.
Hermione beamed and pushed back her chair. I rose to my feet as well, and she grabbed my hand as we walked onto the dance floor. My stomach turned over again at her touch. When we reached a relatively empty space, she turned to face me. I just stood there, unsure what do to next.
"You know I have no idea what I'm doing, right?"
"That's okay, neither do I, really. We'll just make it up."
Um, okay? But it turned out to be fine. The song was fast and therefore required minimal touching, which was fine with me at this point. However, the next song was a much slower waltz. That would have to happen right now, I thought, my heart beginning to pound. I thought about asking Hermione if she wanted to go back to our table. But I did actually know how to waltz—nothing beyond the basic steps—because mum had insisted I learn before my cousin's wedding a couple of summers ago. Well, here goes nothing.
"Shall we?" I extended my hand.
Hermione placed her hand in mine, and my free hand came to rest on the middle of her back. As I began to lead her around the dance floor, she looked at me in surprise.
I grinned. "Yeah, I guess I lied earlier—I am actually awesome at dancing."
Hermione laughed. We continued dancing in silence, and I wondered whether I should tell her how I felt about her. Even though I just discovered it myself. Part of me wanted to blurt it out to get it over with, but a bigger part feared her reaction. She has absolutely no reason to feel the same way. We're almost constantly fighting, and I haven't exactly been the best friend at times. We didn't speak to each other for about two months straight last year, and I know I've made her cry more than once. And even if she was able to disregard all of that, it's not like I'm anyone special. I mean, I'm not brilliant like she is, or a brave as Harry.
On the other hand, if I don't tell her, I'll always wonder if maybe I should have. But if I tell her and she doesn't feel the same way, things could get really awkward, and I definitely don't want to lose her as a friend.
I sighed. Hermione frowned at me and cocked her head to the side. "Something wrong?" she asked.
"What? Oh, no, I was just . . . thinking."
"About—er—well, it's not really that important."
Hermione raised an eyebrow but didn't press me further. The song ended then, and the Weird Sisters announced that they'd be taking a five minute break. Hermione and I returned to our table, Hermione casting sideways glances at me as we walked. When we'd sat down, she turned to me.
"You're oddly quiet tonight; are you sure you're okay?"
I shrugged. "Yeah, I'm just . . ."
I was on the verge of confessing everything, but couldn't quite make myself do it. "Never mind."
Hermione gave me a suspicious look. "It's unlike you to be so secretive and brooding," she teased.
I smiled. I noticed that she had a bit of hair stuck to her lip, and without thinking I reached over to brush it away. As though it had a mind of its own, my hand remained resting against her cheek. Hermione's eyes widened slightly, but she didn't pull away.
I gulped. "Hermione?"
"Do you want something to drink?" I blurted out, pulling my hand back. Barely waiting for her to answer, I practically leaped up from the table and hurried towards the refreshments table. Why couldn't I just tell her?! She didn't pull away, which was a good sign, right? I sighed. Well, forget my inner debate earlier, because the true argument is that I'm just too cowardly to do anything about it.
When I reached the refreshments table, I glanced back to where Hermione was sitting. To my relief—at least, to the relief of my cowardly self—Neville and Ginny had returned to our table. I grabbed four butterbeers and went to join them.
"Hey, Ron," Ginny greeted me.
"Hey Ginny, Neville. Butterbeer?"
They each took the proffered drink with murmured thanks. As I handed one to Hermione, she blushed slightly and quickly looked away. Another little spark of hope flared in me. I should have said something earlier when I had the chance. I can't do it now with Neville and Ginny here.
I was suddenly impatient for the ball to end, so I could speak to Hermione alone. I resolved to tell her everything, though I wasn't entirely sure I wouldn't just chicken out again. I was so preoccupied with my new resolution that could barely concentrate on Ginny, Neville, and Hermione's conversation. I didn't say much, but instead went over different scenarios in my head, trying to decide how best to tell Hermione how I felt. I still half-feared that it would end disastrously, but I kept reminding myself of the positive signs—she'd agreed to go to the ball with me, she'd seemed pleased and a little embarrassed when I'd complemented her, and she was definitely flustered after our most recent exchange.
Finally, people began to filter out of the Great Hall. Neville asked Ginny for one more dance, but to my relief Hermione said she was ready to go back to Gryffindor tower. We walked to the common room in silence; all the while I tried to make myself say something, but my voice seemed to have frozen somewhere around my throat.
At the foot of the girls' staircase, Hermione turned to me. "Tonight was fun," she said. "I'm glad you asked me."
"Me too," I agreed. I paused. I couldn't do it after all. "Well, goodnight," I said, mentally kicking myself for my cowardice.
She started to climb the stairs, stopped, and walked back down to me. "I have to ask: What happened earlier, before you went to get drinks?" She said all this in a rush, and had turned a brilliant shade of red by the time she finished. To her credit, however, she looked me straight in the eye the entire time. "There was a moment when I thought . . ."
Without thinking about it I leaned in and kissed her swiftly on the lips. When I pulled back, I was blushing just as furiously as Hermione and was relieved to see that she was smiling. We stared at each other for a few seconds; neither of us seemed to know what to say.
I cleared my throat. "So—er—goodnight, then."
"Good night, Ron." Hermione replied.
I turned and started towards my dormitory, grinning like an idiot and not caring who saw it.
A/N: Ok, that's it! Hope you liked it, and for those of you who have reviewed, thank you! And as always (you know, since you've done this all of two times), thank you to my beta Relik for ensuring that my stories don't suck plot-wise or gramatically!